Log: Updated September 3, 2011
It's All About: ARCpoint!
So the big news is, we've started a new business! Tracy quickly recovered from his heart valve replacement surgery and was champing at the bit to get started on "the next thing" to feed the cruising kitty. And being an employee had sort of lost its charm. So.
We researched and consulted, and visited and researched some more, and ended up picking ARCpoint Labs, a drug, alcohol and DNA testing franchise.We opened for business in Orlando in May!
Well...Tracy has long been involved in drug testing. He started drug testing in the military, when he was responsible for administering drug tests to his troops. Then he was responsible for drug-free workplaces in his capacity as manager of industrial manufacturing facilities. So he was comfortable with the product. And, well, Sharon has secretly always wanted to wear a white lab coat. Perfect match!
Here's the reception area, off the waiting room. Come on back!
Empty your pockets and wash your hands, please. Then take a cup... Yep!
We both went through training to become certified to run the facility and administer all the different kinds of tests. Had a really fun evening trying out our new Breath Alcohol Machine in our hotel room, too. Ha!
We spent ten days in Greenville, South Carolina, at the corporate headquarters. Just in time for the spring blossoms.
Beautiful downtown Greenville. But chilly in March!
But Who Was Minding Cocoa Beach?
The condo could be left alone for a couple of weeks, but what about little Lulu?
Enter Aunt Jeanne, also known as "Pooch Central." She regularly cares for her children's dogs while they are at work or away, so we thought maybe she'd be willing to do the same for her niece. She was! She flew down from Massachusetts to stay with Lulu at the condo. Thank you, thank you!
We were able to spend some time together, too. Found some fun things to do while she was here with us. A trip to nearby Port Canaveral to watch the waves and pelicans.
A Nationals Spring Training baseball game on a drizzly Military Appreciation Day.
And some home-cooked grillin' in the backyard.
Looks like Lulu wasn't the only one getting special attention.
And did we mention the roasted chicken dinner waiting for us on our arrival home from Greenville? And the gorgeous sweater she knit from silky soft, warm bamboo while we were gone? Sharon's color exactly!
Well we have to say, she is welcome back anytime! (And we are now excited that she will be spending Christmas with us this year!)
Wedding Bells in Saint Louis?
Between the March Arcpoint training and the May opening of the Arcpoint office, we made a quick trip up to St. Louis, Missouri to watch Tracy's son Beau get ..... Married!
When Beau first announced his wedding plans and said the wedding would be on April 1st, of course we all thought he was kidding. Nope! They had a real wedding, in the park, on April 1st. No way to forget THAT anniversary, right?
He and Brandi are moving to Germany in September, where she has a fellowship to work on her PhD, and Beau will work on his writing projects. They are both fluent in German, and Beau has spent many years living in Germany in the past. They are eagerly looking forward to the move.
Tracy got to visit with his former in-laws and with Beau's mother at the wedding, and it was good to get caught up. Tracy is still especially fond of Beau's maternal grandfather, "Coach," and he really enjoyed the time he was able to spend with him.
Very sad to say, Coach passed away unexpectedly on September 2. Tracy immediately drove up to Alabama to be with Beau and Beau's mother's family for the services, and to lend support. Made Tracy even more thankful he had been able to spend that time with him in the spring. He will be missed.
Cocoa Beach Condo's "Other" Residents
This guy came scraping by on the walk outside the porch one spring morning. Claws scratching on the path, seeming lost, definitely in imminent danger from the groundskeepers and their huge riding lawnmowers just swooping in.
Scooped him up, put him in the box, and tried to figure out what to do. Ended up, he got a lift down to the pond at the end of the street. Took to it like a duck to water! We swear it's his pointy little head we see poking up every now and then when we walk by.
Speaking of ducks...
Heckle disappeared a few months back. Neighbors say someone saw the pair very early one morning, Heckle dead in the road, Jekyll standing guard and squawking miserably. Jekyll eventually came on back to the yard and mourned for weeks. He was losing weight, looking raggedy, not preening, not eating. We really thought we were going to lose him from grief alone.
But then a hen with her dozen babies started hanging around the yard. Then he seemed to disappear, and we all got real worried again.
But then we saw him hanging around down by the duck pond. And now, three months later, he seems to have decided life is worth living after all. He is spotted regularly with the flocks down at the pond. He's gained weight, his feathers are all shiny and full, and though he still comes by occasionally looking for a fresh drink of water or some popcorn, mostly, he's gone with the flock, and we miss his gentle morning quacks.
Spotted this big Great Blue hanging out one gray and windy morning.
And a young Great Blue hangs out in the yard most days. The other afternoon he caught a puffer fish, and of course it blew itself up. He just could not figure out how to get it deflated small enough to swallow. Comical!
And our manatee population is healthy, with three calves spotted this spring. Of course we joined the Save the Manatees club as soon as we found out about it.
The 4th of July weekend was hard on them, though. Lots of powerboats came into our bay to see the manatees, and one adult sported a huge ugly raw propeller gash after the weekend. Why can't powerboaters just slow down for them?
Wheels and More Wheels
Knowing we were facing a 110 mile round trip commute once the Orlando office was up and running, and with gas prices close to $4 a gallon, the need for a fuel-efficient car was clear. What's the most fuel efficient car these days? The Toyota Prius seemed like the right choice. So, we traded in the Toyota Tacoma truck for Sharon's very first brand new car.
But as it turned out, Tracy immediately had issues with it. It's not big enough, it's just too "granola," it's...well. He just did not want to be seen driving it! "It's YOUR car!" he kept saying.
So, guess what? Of course. He got another truck. The Toyota Tundra, even bigger than the Tacoma! The perfect sales vehicle for this Alabama man. (It really is a nice truck.)
Well, wouldn't you know. Not five months after getting the Prius, Sharon reluctantly had to make the decision to trade it in. Why? Ergonomics. The seat was just killing her back. Killing it! Took a bath financially, but what price can you put on constant pain?
After a couple of weeks test-driving every vehicle she thought she might want to drive, the Honda CR-V had the only seat supportive enough, and since that was her fist choice anyway, that's what she got. And is loving it! And, since it was used, we could afford the top of the line model. Leather heated seats, dual climate controls, sunroof, power everything, the works. The Glacier Blue color is just so pretty, too, isn't it?
And if Sharon's previous car-buying habits are any guide (the Prius excepted), she will be driving this one until it runs itself into the dirt!
Making Time for Fun Stuff
While we have been working very hard on the business, weekends are once again playtime for us. Sometimes they find us cruising the back roads on the bikes. (How about that jazzy new full face helmet?)
Almost every weekend finds Tracy on the Cocoa Beach golf course for 18 holes.
And on occasion, Sharon's there, too.
Went to the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival in Titusville one Sunday. Lots of birds, including this guy. Yes, it's alive! We have bald eagles flying around the condo on occasion, but too far a way for a good picture.
The morning of the Endeavor shuttle launch found Sharon out in her kayak, waiting for lift-off! Tracy gave her the morning off work, just for the event. Thanks, boss!
When we heard Bonnie Raitt was going to be in town, we had to go see her! (Sharon is in the picture somewhere.) It was a fabulous show.
And when we had our corporate sales guy Byron come down to visit, and well, we had to entertain a bit while he was here. A good networking connection got us some discount tickets to the Medieval Times. Good friend Tim was available to join us. What a fun night!
And before it got too hot, there was the occasional day on the sailboat.
WHAT boat? Friend Barry, who lives in North Carolina, had his friend/captain Jim bring his boat, Allegro, a 37' CSY, around from Tampa-St. Pete to Port Canaveral. We found a slip for it just a few miles up the road from the condo. So now we have use of it. And one of these days, we will take it out of the slip. Really, we will! (And does this picture look familiar? I swear we have another one just like this, of Tracy on Landfall...)
And there is always something going on down at the beach. This one crowded day was a Ron Jon Surfing Contest.
And on those rainy summer afternoons, well, there's always the Nordic Track. Thanks, Dad, for letting us haul it back from California last Christmas!
What's Up Down in Panama?
Hard to believe, but we have not been down there in over a year! The house sitters seem to be doing a darn fine job, though. Unfortunately, the pictures are few and far between, but here's what we have from them.
After David left, on his way to the South Pacific on a sailboat, Graham and Rachel were able to spend a few months. Jasmine definitely took to Graham. She does seem to prefer men.
Damon and Laurie then spent a couple of months. (And they were also there for an unexpected 2- week stint as well, leaping into the breach when Graham and Rachel's plans went awry due to a health issue just before they were supposed to leave for Panama. Many thanks for that!) Gellie is clearly comfortable. Well, looks like Laurie is too!
This picture was posted on Laurie's Facebook page. Darling girls!
And then there was this photo from a rainy day. According to Laurie's Facebook page, "In honor of SXSW and of the birthday-beach-party being rained out, we bring you an ironic moustache, from Panama."
Then Rachel and Graham returned for another couple of months. And immediately ran into the inevitable (and unenviable) problem that comes with a propane refrigerator. They had to do a lot of troubleshooting to try to keep things cool. But figure it out, they did!
Jasmine was delighted they were back (ok, maybe a little more delighted Graham was back, knowing her gender preferences), and Indy and Gellie were definitely happy to have them both return. They did a great job keeping the place clean and running smoothly, and we felt very lucky to have had them for as long as they were able to stay.
Then Alex and wife Lisa came down from Southern California for a month this summer, with their two children. Dog lovers, clearly! And good with Jasmine, too!
Staying flexible in paradise looks pretty nice!
The family made friends with the neighbors and invited them all over for dinner on occasion. Wonderful to see the neighbors enjoying our porch, even if we can't be there with them!
Alex also turned out to be a whiz with Cricket, and it's a darn good thing, too. First, regular maintenance had been deferred, and he got on top of all that right away. Then, the hull plug was leaking, so had he not noticed, she surely would have sunk. He found a replacement and fixed that. Then there were bilge pump issues.... Whew!
Then, he noticed the water wasn't coming out of the outboard engine like it should, and it was running rough. Did what troubleshooting he could, then took it in to get it diagnosed, and ordered the needed parts. Unfortunately, the parts didn't arrive before he had to leave, but he made a full report to the incoming house sitters, and they have now been able to "get 'er done"--with the gracious and able help of Ken, of friends Ken and Vonne, across the bay. So much support from friends so far away. We feel very, very lucky!
So Who's House Sitting Cerro Velero Now?
Jenny and Tomas arrived last month, to stay for three months.
Jenny is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Tomas is a Software Engineer, and between them they have an intriguing Internet business called Touch Autism that allows them to continue to work while away from home. They are also experienced travelers, and are settling in just great. And they are continuing to work on Cricket's engine.
They spent time with Ken, and between them followed up on some issues that Alex had pointed out really needed dealing with but that Alex didn't have parts and time to take care of before he left. Like...that water is not supposed to be coming out of that hole!
More parts are on the way to them, too, with friends of Carl and Mary's (or so we hope); we had the parts shipped from the states to Jenny and Tomas' friends who were heading down for a visit from San Diego. But despite the extra, exorbitant shipping fees, the parts did NOT arrive on time, so the parts will have to get to Panama by some other means. Aaargh!
Jenny and Tomas are discovering all kinds of things about Jasmine. Like...her flight feathers need trimming. Oops! Thankfully, this time she made it only to the bodega roof, where they were able to rescue her fairly easily. Tomas has become her allopreen, and they have really bonded, so even if she does take off again before they get to clip her flight feathers, I am sure she will be eager to get back to her new pal.
They have been hard at work repairing the stairway up to the house, and according to Jenny, this week's project is...the water tank retaining wall. Yep, looks like we need an upgrade there. Can't wait to see how it turns out!
Some sad news from Panama, though. Another member of our gringo community has passed away. Frank and Jolanta had just finished building their dream house on Shepherd Island when Frank came down with what seemed to be dengue fever. Things suddenly turned for the worse, and in the middle of the night, they loaded him into the boat and headed into Almirante and the hospital. But he didn't make it. Such a shock, and so unexpected. Our sympathy goes out to Jolanta, and to the community.
Rainbows and Sunsets
Cocoa Beach continues to wow us with amazing sunsets.
And so far, the hurricanes are bypassing us this season. Fingers crossed!